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Lessons from Defeat - Courtesy of Usain Bolt

I don’t know a Jamaican, or Usain Bolt fan for that matter, who would not have wanted Bolt to win the last race of his career. But it wasn’t to be – there was no gold medal in those legs and he had to ‘settle for bronze’ (ponder those words!). While it was sad to have missed the storybook ending I think that we got a different story – how to handle defeat or failure. By the end of the night the story was all about the graciousness with which ‘The Big Man’ handled his defeat and his stature grew even more. 

Every organization is going to face a failure. If it does not face failure because of risks, then it will face failure because it has not taking any and has grown stagnant! When the results aren’t what we wanted or expected then what do we do? Do we turn around and blame the equipment, the staff, the economy, the record keeping?  Many times the answer is yes – we look around for a scapegoat. Once we find that scapegoat we put the blame on it and everyone else in the organization can breathe happy. Of course the problem with that is that the underlying condition often does not get addressed! 

In Mr. Bolt’s response we see some important ways of behaving:

1.    Immediate acceptance – As soon as he crossed the line in third place he went to congratulate those who took first and second place. He did not waste time or energy in denial. 

2.    Managed response – Instead of going back to the dressing room to lick his wounds he stayed on the track for another 20 minutes signing autographs, taking selfies and talking to his fans.

3.    Setting the tone –  Even from thousands of miles away, those of us in Jamaica felt the stunned silence in the arena when Bolt did not cross the line in his usual first place. However his response told the crowd how to behave – accept it. His embrace of his competitors did the same thing. And finally..

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